The Prisoners (Attendance in Courts) Act, 1955 was legislated on 20th September, 1955. The Act was enforced on 1st January, 1956 after its publication in official gazette on 12th November, 1955. The act aims compulsory attendance of persons on judicial custody in courts for their evidence or for answering a criminal charge. As we know our judicial system is based on the principal of natural justice therefore whenever a person who is taken in to judicial custody after necessary investigation shall be produced before court where his matter is pending specially during evidence stage and while charges are being framed. The Act extends to whole of India except for the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The act defines the terms confinement in prison and prison under section 2. The confinement shall always be in state maintained prisons which shall also include reformatory centres and other institutes of like nature. The Act empowers both Civil and Criminal Court to call such person who is undergoing confinement in any of the State run prisons wherein the presence of such person is required for taking down evidence necessary in a particular matter pending in such court under section 3 sub clause (1). However in case a person is confined in prison outside the territory of the State the Civil Court cannot in such a case demand presence of such person. However when the Judge in Civil Court deems it important that the person confined should be present before the Court he shall pass necessary orders under provisions of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 for examination of person in prison in which he is confined under sub clause (b) of section 7 of the Act.
The Court shall make an order to the officer in charge of prison who shall make the person present before the Court. The order of appearance before the Court shall be made by District Judge alone and in cases where in the order is passed by any other judge sanction of the District Judge shall be mandatory.
Section 4 of the Act empowers State Government to exempt presence of person in the court thereby preventing compliance of orders under section 3 of the Act. The person shall not be removed from the prison until the orders prevail. Before passing an order section 4 of the Act, the Court shall ensure the following i.e. the orders are passed in public interest, nature of offence and that appearance of person in court shall cause public disturbance.
Section 5 of the Act imposes duty on the police officer who shall remain with the person throughout the proceedings of the Court. In case such person is required for long he shall be kept in custody near the court premises and shall remain there till the judge or authorised officer of the court allow him to be taken back to the prison in which he is confined.
The Officer in-charge in certain situations is empowered to not make the person present before court in situations where-in the prisoner is sick or unable to make appearance due to certain disease of any nature, under committal for trial, under remand or where investigation against such person is pending. Exception being that the officer in charge shall essentially make person present before court in situations when order is made by criminal court.
The Provisions of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and Code of Criminal Procedure shall apply in relation to examination or commission in relation to person confined. The Act empowers state government to make rules under the provisions of the Act which shall be enforced after notification in official gazette.
Thus the Act is an important piece of legislation and is in interest of thousands of persons in judicial custody whose matters are pending in the court of law. It helps such persons know the status of their matter apart from their requirement in the judicial proceedings of the Court.
by Vibhuti Nakta.